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Ken Masugi- Columnist

Ken Masugi is the Director of the Claremont Institute's Center for Local Government. Its purpose is to apply the principles of the American Founding to the theory and practice of local government, the cradle of American self-government. Dr. Masugi has extensive experience in government and academia. Following his initial appointment at the Claremont Institute (1982-86), he was a special assistant to then-Chairman Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After his years in Washington, he held visiting university appointments including Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Dr. Masugi is co-author with Brian Janiskee of both The California Republic: Institutions, Statesmanship, and Policies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004) and Democracy in California: Politics and Government in the Golden State (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002). He is co-editor of six books on political thought, including The Supreme Court and American Constitutionalism with Branford P. Wilson, (Ashbrook Series, 1997); The Ambiguous Legacy of the Enlightenment with William Rusher, (University Press, 1995); The American Founding with J. Jackson Barlow and Leonard W. Levy, (Greenwood Press, 1988). He is the editor of Interpreting Tocqueville's Democracy in America, (Rowman & Littlefield, 1991). [go to Masugi index]

Ward Churchill Whines: Fascist America
Intellectual conartistry...

[Ken Masugi] 4/28/05

‘‘No Quarter: Academic Freedom & the Rise of American Fascism” was Colorado University professor Ward Churchill’s topic in addressing a Claremont Colleges audience last night (Jason Newell, Daily Bulletin 4/26). Tedious, whining, egocentric, cliché-ridden, paranoid, shallow. For most purposes, he could just as well be a member of the Posse Comitatus (for which he expressed sympathies). While complaining that he had been forced to write hastily, Churchill was unapologetic for his “little Eichmanns” essay, connecting the World Trade Center with the exploitation of the Third World, with 9/11 a “karma coming due.” The “chickens coming home to roost” were perhaps (following his ancestral Indian thought) the “ghosts” of dead Iraqi children (Iraq and 9/11!) and swindled and massacred Indians who had dwelled in Manhattan. (He denounced the “racial purity board” which is investigating his claims to Indian ancestry.) If TV commentary labeled the attacks as “senseless” and President Bush could say “be free or I’ll kill you,” why was he being persecuted for showing the logic behind the attacks? What about Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on 9/11 being a moral reckoning for a corrupt America?

Moreover, the enemy—they are fascists, he assured the crowd of several hundred—was out to kill him, figuratively, he tentatively added. The President and Colorado Governor were out to use and get him. Churchill sneered at Lynne Cheney (the Vice President’s wife) a couple times. He didn't care for Matt Labash's essay either. Looks like Mrs. Cheney’s organization, ACTA, is getting to him, not to mention David Horowitz. Give your money to ACTA (not to mention the Claremont Institute), not your Churchill-abetting college.

What evidence does he have that America is fascist? Radar-gun cops, military-style uniforms on UPS truck drivers, the alleged assault on ethnic studies and “queer studies” programs, McCarthyism, corporate ownership of America, regimentation, self-entitlement, and a new world order. Of course America supports oppressive Israel against the Palestinians. He denounced smoking bans. The authorities are looking for “places to put people.” Pretty inept fascism, it seems.

When a questioner noted that Bush had been elected, Churchill broke out in “Deutschland, Deutschland Ueber Alles.” Claiming to be a rule of law conservative, he believes that all should do unto others and that the Declaration of Independence should be used to dissolve the current government. He did not, however, directly endorse the use of violence, though he didn’t repudiate it either. He said something about not advocating “violence in the context of endemic violence.”

Perhaps the most revealing whine of all is his declaration that if free speech has consequences, then “speech is not free.” Thus, Churchill embraced the universities and the federal judiciary as the two last islands of freedom in the country. He even had a good word to say about his interim university President, conservative Hank Brown. (Churchill knows what side his bread is buttered on.) Maintaining his independence, Churchill once gave a nominating speech at a Libertarian Party convention, admires some John Birchers, and argues he is not a leftist. His aim is to “get people out of the middle,” making them cease being “good Germans.”

What can one say about such a caricature? He is a clever conartist, who is making a nice living denouncing the very basis by which he makes that living. Whether he gets anyone killed for taking seriously his blatherings cannot be dismissed; that he gains students’ trust and fills their heads with unmitigated nonsense is evident. See our Claremont Colorado report on Churchill. The best commentary on his type (though his appears to break new ground) can be found in Frederick Crews’s Post-Modern Pooh. Finally, one should take a close look at Churchill’s friends: the universities and the federal judiciary. With friends like Churchill, they shouldn’t lack for enemies. But the cause of Churchill's presence in Claremont needs to be addressed.

The newsreport noted the individual Colleges' attempt to distance themselves from the event. Responsibility should not be ducked:

The visit was sponsored by the Intercollegiate Department of Black Studies and Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies, and not directly by any of the seven distinct academic institutions that comprise the Claremont Colleges.

The venue where Churchill spoke, Bridges Auditorium, is a facility shared by the colleges.

But violence is certainly something he hasn't foresworn in books like Pacifism as Pathology (1998), which argues that sit-ins and Smokeouts just aren't cutting much ice. Leading by example is Ed Mead, who wrote the book's introduction, and who spent 18 years in prison as a member of the George Jackson Brigade, which bombed, among other things, three different government buildings in the 1970s. Churchill claims in the book that he once taught a hands-on workshop entitled "Demystification of the Assault Rifle" (a group of lesbian feminists showed up and denounced it as "macho swaggering"). And he admits to me, "I have more guns than the average liberal and less than Charlton Heston," and, "yes, I've participated in armed struggle," since the "right to engage in the use of armed force to counter the forcible usurpation of rights . . . is rather prominently enshrined in both domestic and international law."

On a later occasion, I press him on this subject, citing a 1987 Denver Post piece in which he bragged about teaching the Weathermen (largely known for property destruction) how to make bombs and fire weapons--"which end does the bullet go, what are the ingredients, how do you time the damn thing." He freely admits that he was involved with the Weathermen for six months, even giving them firearms orientation, before three of them accidentally blew themselves up (with a bomb that was intended for a Ft. Dix military dance, where more than punchbowls would presumably have been targeted).

But about explosives training specifically, he now hedges. "I wasn't really qualified to provide it. There were army field manuals floating around and I was undoubtedly asked--and answered as best I could," he wrote me in an email, "but that doesn't really constitute training." He adds that the FBI, after investigating him, concluded as much. Though that may be true, I ask him, wouldn't answering questions about explosives be the same as "teaching"--he needn't have organized a formal weekend workshop? On this, he failed to respond.

Churchill, it seems, likes to play at being dangerous, then gets miffed when people take him at his word. tOR

copyright 2005 Claremont Institute.


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